Good food can make the suck more tolerable.
Bad food can turn an already-crappy situation into a literal sh*t sandwich.
And judging by some of your photos, a shi*t sandwich isn’t far off from what you’ve been served while conducting your pre-deployment “Restriction of Movement,” or ROM, during the pandy.
To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many of you have been restricted to a barracks or hotel room for two weeks. You’re likely very bored and looking forward to the meals they bring, both to feed you and to break up the monotony.
Then a bun without a hot dog shows up. Or a meat log of indeterminate origins. Or just a bunch of sad, small-portion food not fit for a military man or woman.
We’ve put your gnarliest ROM meal pics in front of a promotion board and now bring you “The Military’s Worst ROM Meals (TMWRM)” Volume I.
If you’ve had really good meals in ROM, we wanna see those, too.
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Send your pics, gripes and salutations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Names below have been tweaked or altered so that angry COs can’t come down on the rank-and-file for talking to us.
A Very Marine Corps Christmas
Our first worst ROM meal comes from the mother of a Marine who spent Christmas in ROM over in Okinawa, Japan.
Looks like we’re dealing with some Class-D succotash, a big orange and a Snickers bar. It remains unclear whether the Marine ate the other half of the to-go box.
“The attached photo was the only meal received on Christmas Day,” said the mom, who asked to remain anonymous so her kid wouldn’t face blowback from a vengeful Gunny. “Their ROM was extended for a week for no reason and the mess hall was not made aware of this.”
And while she appreciates the gallows humor of our “The Military’s Worst ROM Meals (TMWRM)” special report, she notes that “the way they are fed during ROM is straight ridic.”
“It’s not just the Corps, but every branch,” she added, reporting that Military Mom Facebook features images of similarly dismal meals.
“It is not acceptable that anyone serving our country is receiving less than a good, nutritious, balanced meal when they are in garrison,” the mom said.
Mom said she’s contacted her U.S. senator about these awful meals.
“You better believe nasty letters were written to several elected officials,” she said. “Ooh-rah.”
Moms are the best. Call yours today. She just wants to hear your voice.
Potato is the meat
Marty sends us this delightful ROM meal from a recent stint at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
No meat. No protein. PLENTY of starch.
Sadly, our guy didn’t get any chili or shredded cheese for that hitter. He received neither butter, nor sour cream.
It was just straight spud to the dome.
“No ketchup, no salt, just a microwaved potato,” Marty told us. “I had to eat it like an apple. I’ll never forget that night.”
The inbound food log will be heading outbound soon
We here at OP are proponents of Shaped Meats. Meat loaf is delish, as is that weird frozen turkey loaf you can buy that’s half “white” meat and half “dark.”
This “Turd and Mac & Cheese” was sent to us by a service member ROM’ing in September in New Mexico.
The artistic license, the drawing of the evacuating buttocks, really makes this ROM meal pic the Chef’s Kiss.
“I prefer not to share my name, and neither my unit because of Opsec reasons,” he wrote. “But you can credit the picture from ‘Al from the Majestic as F*#% Unicorn Platoon.’”
To be fair, that mac n’ cheese mound has the viscous sheen prized among mac ‘n cheese connoisseurs.
Hot dog, hold the dog
This photo was sent to us sans explanation, because it needs none. Its sadness speaks for itself.
We know everyone is busy, and orders must be carried out, and that the massive logistical machine that is the DoD sometimes lumbers…but come on, man. Come on!
And double birds to that “side dish.” Looks like a sociopath’s version of kimchi.
Forgetting the meat, or forging on without the meat, is a recurring theme in your worst ROM meals.
A sailor recently ROM’ing in Virginia Beach sent us this sad-ass array of undercooked JoJo potatoes, a scoopa carrots and a big helping of still hungry.
“That was seriously all they gave me,” the sailor wrote. “No main course. They might have run out of food because of the league volume of sailors that were on ROM, but everyone on my floor in the barracks got this meal.”
How the rest be eatin’
It should be noted that these bad ROM meals aren’t meant to indict all the countless military cooks doing their best in these unusual times.
“There are soldiers, sailors, and airmen behind some of those meals and they take great pride in the food that they provide,” one reader noted. “When morale is low, the first thing that people pick on is the food. It is unfair to those who are trying their best in the jobs that they were trained for.”
Props to whomever oversaw this battalion of ROM meals. They don’t look half bad considering the dismal reality we are all living through.
We also heard from a Navy culinary specialist who cooks for a fleet command admiral.
He noted that their team has continued to push out five-star fare for the admiral and his guests.
“If you are going to show the worst meals during the pandemic, then please also consider showing the great meals we are continuing to serve as well,” the sailor wrote.
Since the pandy started nearly a year ago now, “the Flag Mess took action and set social distancing measures, put on our gloves, mask and continued to serve our Admiral and Guest,” the CS added.
Check out the Flag Fare:
If you do not carry a star on your shoulder, the succulence of this bird cannot be contemplated.
As my hard-nosed Great Depression-reared Irish grandma used to say when we’d have lobsters on special occasions: “I wonder what the poor people are doing.”
Back into the ranks of the great unwashed we go!
Ye olde Log O’Mystery
What ah you? WHAT AH YOU? Foul log!
This…thing (maybe pork tendyloin?) was sent to us by a service member ROM’ing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
“All meals are given cold,” the service member said. “We do have a microwave in our rooms but DFAC food isn’t meant to be reheated.”
During our correspondence, the question remained: WHAT IS THAT?
“I don’t know, and I was too scared to eat it,” the service member said.
Many of you were perplexed by the enigmatic nature of what you were given to ingest.
A sailor recently ROM’ing at Naval Base San Diego sent us this mound of happy. Eat up, Shippy!
Our final entry comes from our friends in the 1st Armored Division out at Fort Bliss, Texas.
This soldier was at least outside and not confined to a room, but still, yikes.
Our first photo showcases a coagulated version of that ol’ favorite, rice n’ gravy.
“It was cold out so by the time we were given plates out on the gun line the gravy had hardened,” the soldier noted.
Of what food class is this?
Crepes with a sauce? Pancakes and sausage shrapnel, swimming in maple syrup?
“Mashed potatoes/gravy with two meat pieces,” the soldier tells us. “Protein is a must!”
Thanks for reading, keep those entries coming and we’ll see you here again soon for Volume II of “The Military’s Worst ROM Meals (TMWRM).”
About Geoff Ziezulewicz
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at email@example.com.